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Saturday April 1st

UNC faculty representatives discuss how to meet NC’s education needs

Members of the UNC Board of Trustees admitted Wednesday that UNC is facing many problems.

Among them: the search for a new chancellor and provost, former Gov. Jim Martin’s report on the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and allegations of mishandled sexual assaults.

But at the board’s University Affairs committee meeting, administrators addressed none of these.

Jan Boxill, chairwoman of the faculty, came before the group to present concerns faculty have about the UNC-system Board of Governors’ five-year strategic plan.

The main goal of the plan is to continue providing quality low-cost education throughout the system while tailoring curriculums to better reflect the needs of the state.

But there were differing opinions at the meeting as to what those needs will be in the future.

Boxill said that the plan was full of preconceptions about certain curriculums and that the business community was determining the direction of the research.

She said she wanted to discuss which subjects were at the core of the plan.

“It’s critical that each campus has faculty drive the curriculum,” she said.

For example, Boxill said, the plan neglects to mention foreign languages — which she believes are crucial for a university seeking a global presence.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney said the concrete goals of the plan — higher graduation rates, more four-year graduates and more accessible online education — reflect the reality the state is facing.

“More to the point, it is more beneficial to the economy of the state, and that’s not unreasonable,” he said.

Boxill had a different vision of how students need to be prepared to meet the needs of North Carolina.

She said the emphasis given to hiring few University employees and to promoting online education undervalues the importance of traditional instruction.

“This plan fails to capture the research and scholarship that goes on on campus,” she said. “They are essential to a healthy university and well-educated students.”

Boxill said she is still hopeful because she considers the plan a “living” document.

“It’s in the implementation where the faculty will have their say,” she said.

After Boxill presented her concerns about the future, Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shared developments the department has already undertaken that address the issues raised by Boxill and Carney.

“We want to take what we’re doing and say, ‘More, please,’” she said.

Gil said the college has established a department of applied sciences as well as expanded the biomedical engineering program with UNC’s School of Medicine and N.C. State University.

She said these kinds of interdisciplinary approaches are at the forefront of applied science.

“A large fraction of the best solutions to the biggest problems today are being found between departments of campuses,” Gil said.

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